Despite the dreary weather, a record-breaking number of students, professors and local residents descended on the Ithaca Commons this weekend to celebrate the fall season and all things apple at the 30th annual Apple Harvest Festival.
Apple Fest — first introduced in 1982 as a showcase of the Ithaca area’s diverse agricultural community — has evolved to include food, craft and amusement booths and has become a staple in the Ithaca community.
Although nothing in particular was planned to celebrate its 30th anniversary, Apple Fest was “bigger and better this year,” according to Gary Ferguson, executive director of Downtown Ithaca Alliance, which coordinates Apple Fest.
“Typically we draw between [30,000 and 35,000] people, but this year’s turnout is a record-breaker,” Ferguson said. “It was incredible and impressive.”
Dozens of vendors –– including wineries, farms and Cornell’s Society for Horticulture Graduate Students, which represented Cornell Orchards at the Apple Fest –– lined the streets to sell fresh apples, cider, apple-based wines, caramel and other apple-related fare to a crowd of more than 35,000 people.
Rare varieties of apples harvested by several New York-based farms were among customer favorites, according to Sathish Kumar Sekar grad, a volunteer with Cornell Orchards.
“Most of the [Cornell Orchards] apples are organic, and we have special varieties that you can’t get at Walmart or other grocery stores because they are very perishable,” Sekar said.
Kumar said he and other volunteers enjoy displaying Cornell’s rich apple harvest at the festival each year.
“We sell very fresh apples every year,” Kumar said. “We have new varieties that are not yet released in the market and they aren’t even named yet.”
Other produce sold at Apple Fest included fresh pumpkin and baked pumpkin goods, Concord grapes, gourds, maple syrup and flowering plants.
Another Cornell organization at Apple Fest was the Cornell Cooperative Extension, whose volunteers stood next to compost, waste and recycling bins and directed crowd-goers to dispose of their trash in an environmentally friendly way.
In addition to boasting fresh and locally grown fruits, Apple Fest also featured the international cuisine of nearby restaurants, handmade clothing and accessories made by craft vendors.
Guests and children also enjoyed inflatable rides, a scavenger hunt, a Zumba dance session, a goat petting zoo, a Family Fun Zone and more than 20 musical performances at the festival.
Cornell students who went to Apple Fest said they were impressed with the variety of activities and goods at Apple Fest.
“Apple Fest really seems to bring all the people in Ithaca together,” Paul Zhang ’16 said. “The food is delicious.”
Paul West ’16 also said he enjoyed his first Apple Fest.
“The food is fantastic, and the bands are pretty good,” West said. “I had the Thai pumpkin soup, some apple crisps, sweet corn, hot cider and tea … This is the first time I’ve been downtown, and it’s already much better than Collegetown